And so it happens that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky finally replaced Commandant in Chief Valery Zaluzhny with Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, the former ground forces chief.
So, this should end the constant infighting, right? Wrong.
The greatest military shakeup in Ukraine since the start of the war has led to an outpour of criticism by military personnel, civilian government officials and internet users.
Syrsky is being called a ‘butcher’, a ‘meat-grinder’ who wastes troops on frontal meat-assaults. Critics say his ‘specialty’ is getting his troops into killboxes and wait to the last moment to withdraw.
“The question now is what Syrsky, 58, brings to the war. Most notably he helped defend Kiev against Russia’s onslaught and orchestrated a successful counteroffensive in Kharkov.
But Syrsky’s also known for leading forces into a meat grinder in Bakhmut, sending wave after wave of troops to face opposition fire. In the end, Kremlin-backed Wagner Group mercenaries captured the city.”
Unsurprisingly, Syrsky is deeply unpopular with Ukraine’s rank-and-file.
“’Very bad decision’, a Ukrainian military captain told NatSec Daily. […] Another person knowledgeable of Syrsky’s operations echoed that view. His appointment is unlikely to have a positive effect for Ukraine, as Syrsky is seen by those on the frontlines as a stern Soviet-style general who callously puts his men in danger.”
Ukrainian troops have given Syrsky the gruesome nickname of ‘Butcher’ – but not, mind you, for butchering enemies as much as his own troops.
“The negative reviews keep pouring in: ‘General Syrsky’s leadership is bankrupt, his presence or orders coming from his name are demoralizing, and he undermines trust in the command in general’, a Ukrainian military officer posted on X. ‘His relentless pursuit of tactical gains constantly depletes our valuable human resources, resulting in tactical advances such as capturing tree lines or small villages, with no operational goals in mind’.”
Vitali Klitschko, the outspoken Mayor of Kiev, also reacted poorly to the dismissal of Valery Zaluzhny.
Ukrayinska Pravda reported:
“‘I thank the general and a great man, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, for serving Ukraine and protecting our state. Thanks to you, Ukrainians truly believed in our Armed Forces, which now have the highest level of public trust. As a combat general during the war, you faced numerous critical situations and made difficult decisions. […] I hope the government offers explanations for such changes. At a time when there are heavy battles on the frontline, it is critical to maintain effective cooperation with international partners. At the moment when society’s unity necessitates the presence of trustworthy authorities’, Klitschko said.”
Another polemic is raging around the fact that Syrsky was born in Russia, graduated from the prestigious Moscow Higher Military Command School.
Syrsky’s parents and brother all still live in Russia.
Simplicius the Thinker wrote in Substack:
“Ask yourself, why would Zelensky appoint a commander that the entire armed forces allegedly hates? In fact, this is a ‘design feature’ not a bug.
Recall that the reason Zaluzhny was given the boot was he had become too powerful: he was too loved by the troops, and by the people. Why? One of the reasons is likely because he fought for the troops multiple times. In early 2023, documents were leaked showing that he nearly begged Zelensky to pull troops back from Bakhmut, but the narco-Fuhrer refused, wanting it as a symbolic city defense—perhaps taken with romantic delusions of Stalingrad.”
“During the grand summer ‘counteroffensive’, Zaluzhny pulled the brigades of the 10th Army Corps back and began to use them sparingly—much to the chagrin and disapproval of US sponsors—after the initial first few wipes devastated columns of Leopards and Bradleys along the infamous road of death near Rabotino and Mala Tokmachka.
Recently it was claimed Zaluzhny likewise attempted to get Avdeevka totally withdrawn. It does not seem that he likes to waste men for what he knows to be fruitless efforts. Syrsky on the other hand appears glad to grind them down.
So, has it become obvious yet? Zelensky needs a commander-in-chief he can control, someone not universally loved by the troops; someone who cannot use those troops at a time of opportunity to ‘march on Kiev’ and oust Zelensky from his citadel. Syrsky appears to fit the perfect prototypical role: undefiant, unpopular, uncharismatic, and most importantly, untempted by political ambitions—the ideal subserviant factotum to Zelensky’s regime.”
Protests on Maidan Square have already begun, tiny, but revealing – made up mostly of women.